Online Coaching: Past, Present and Future

Online coaching (or online personal training) is something that I’ve done since 2006.

And to be quite honest, I kind of fell into the whole thing.

I was writing fairly regularly for T-nation at the time, and an avid reader named Mark (who lived in Japan) reached out to see if I could write training programs for him.



To be honest, this was never on my radar.

I loved the idea of writing articles and helping educate people, but the thought of training/coaching someone online never crossed my mind.

Until then.

(Random aside: I’m still coaching Mark to this day, and he still only pays the $100 I charged back then!)

So what I want to do today is talk a little bit about my online coaching process, both then and now.

In case you didn’t notice, there have been a few changes with the Internet since then.

So here’s a little overview as to how things started out, as well as where I’m at now.

The REAL Struggles of Online Coaching Back in the Day

When I first started online coaching, it was more “online programming” versus true coaching.

The fact of the matter was, video just wasn’t as easily recorded or distributed then as it is now.

So when a new client wanted to start-up, the assessment process was pretty spartan, and consisted of the following:

  • Static posture pics,
  • Training history,
  • Issues/injuries they were working around, and
  • Their goals.

This was also pretty reflective of where I was as a coach. Keep in mind that in 2006 if you weren’t someone with big strength goals, or an injury history a mile long, you probably didn’t want to work with me!

My whole focus at that time was helping people get stronger, and/or get healthy and injury-free so they could get strong again.

From that very basic assessment process, I would then create your program and ship it off.

But like I said, this wasn’t “online coaching” – it was online programming.

When it came to the actual coaching side, there wasn’t a ton I could do.

Sure I could write some common coaching cues (or things I wanted them to address) in the program, but I couldn’t necessarily use a video to show them proper technique, nor could I coach/cue them myself.

So this was the cycle: One time per week, the client would drop me a line to let me know how things were going, and once a month I’d fire off a new program update.

As I’m writing this, it’s amazing to think about how things were, and at the same time, how much success we had working together.

Now let’s take a look at how this looks today…

What Online Coaching Looks Like Today

As you can imagine, a lot has changed with regards to the Internet since 2006.

Twitter is now a thing.

Facebook is open to everyone.

And oh – by the way – recording and sending videos is about the easiest thing in the world to do!

It’s safe to say that video has changed the game with regards to online coaching, from start to finish.

First and foremost, the assessment process is far more in-depth now.

Instead of just shooting static posture pics, I can now get feedback with regards to movement quality.

The assessment process looks like this:

  • All of the above materials (posture pics, goals, current program, etc.)
  • Squat video,
  • Lunge video,
  • Push-up video,
  • Toe touch video,
  • Shoulder mobility video, and
  • Athletic movement videos (as necessary).

It may not be as dynamic as I could get in a hands-on session, but it’s far better than what I was doing a decade ago!

But this gets really cool when it comes to the training process.

Remember, this was a multi-faceted problem in the past:

  1. I didn’t know how they moved, so I had to assume they were moving relatively well (a big assumption!),
  2. I couldn’t show them proper technique myself, and
  3. I had to guess with regards to my coaching cues as well.

Now I can not only send them videos of me performing the exercises, but I can actually watch them perform their lifts, and then give them the appropriate cue or feedback to ensure they are moving correctly!

While building the video database on the front-end does take some time, it’s well worth it, as my clients are getting even better results now than they did years ago.

The only downside as this point is the timing of all this. In a live training session, if a client does something incorrectly, you can coach them within the set, or even during a rep, to address the issue.

With an online client, unless you’re using Skype or FaceTime to make it truly interactive, there’s always a delay between the issue and the fix.

In my opinion, though, this is a small price to pay. Online coaching allows clients worldwide to have access to virtually any coach of their choosing.

They could live in the smallest, most remote corner of the world, and if they have an Internet connection they can hire and work with a quality coach.

And this is what I love about online coaching. It allows me to work with people that, geographically, I never would have had access to 15-20 years ago.

The Future of Online Coaching?

I’m no fortune teller (is Miss Cleo still out there?!?!), but I imagine the world of online coaching will continue to grow in the years to come.

Much like the fitness industry itself, the online coaching world is still very much in its infancy.

And as with any new market, eventually things get more competitive.

I think a lot of coaches who are making a ton of money in online coaching (some who are training 200-300 clients online per month!), will eventually be exposed for the low quality of their work.

In many business worlds, being able to mass produce things is of benefit, at least initially.

It lowers costs and makes things affordable to the end-user.

But at some point, you hit a saturation point and as a consumer, simply getting A product is no longer good enough.

Now you want a customized or individualized product that’s built for you.

I sincerely hope that’s where we’re going in the future, and when you combine that individualization with the advances in video, I can see a future where coaches could work “online” with clients around the world, in real-time, from the comfort of their own home or office.


So there you have it – a brief history of online training and coaching.

If you are a trainer or coach and want to learn more about my process and system for working online, please be sure to check out the Online Coaching Formula, which I co-created with Pat Rigsby.

In this product, you’ll not only get my entire online coaching system, but you’ll combine that with all the best practices business wise that Pat has created for you.

Quite simply, this product can help you start making money in the online coaching world, while doing things the right way and avoiding the mistakes we made when we were starting out.

The product is on sale this week only, and you can find out more about it via the link below:

Online Coaching Formula

All the best


Get 3 days of my best coaching materials — for free.


Notebook with pencil icon Write better programs
Trophy icon Learn how to motivate clients outside the gym
Meditation icon My most popular resets for instantly improving movement quality


Leave Comment

  1. Mike, thanks for sharing your experience and journey. Amazing how tech has changed the game and wanted to share some additional thoughts.

    Ultimately online coaching has morphed dramatically over the past 5 years and will continue to do so we see an upcoming convergence of fitness/health/wellness on the horizon.

    As you pointed out, simply being able to send and receive pictures and videos online opened the door to online offerings, but in my opinion it’s been the introduction and evolution of health tracking tools that’s been the catalyst for recent growth. Now we not only have the building blocks for distributing educational material, but ALSO the ability to see hard numbers and understand how the instruction is influencing change.

    Pretty incredible to witness, but over the next few years trainers/coach/practitioners will have more efficient and effective devices at their disposal capturing more consistent and robust data sets. This will come in the form of patch technologies and other less obtrusive devices that avoid methods for continuous data collection. As an example there has been a lot of press recently about Dexcom’s new continuous glucose monitoring technology ( which leverages a small patch the user wears for a week at a time.

    That being said, one of the greatest issues I regular see within the industry are the struggles around marketing and acquisition of online coaching clients. Too many coaches are still of the mindset that all it takes is a simple website and facebook posting for clients to appear… obviously not the case as it requires a well-structured, staged funnel to illustrate value and built trust with prospects – great article from DigitalMarketer on the layers of the online sales funnel (

    Ultimately there are groups out there, like StrengthMatters, who’ve found interesting ways to leverage other content and initiatives, like steps challenges, to attract and drive coaching subscriptions (, but my hope is that strategies like this will become more commonplace in order to increase the success of more coaches across the industry.

Leave a Reply

Back to All Posts